Final Fantasy XIV has a history of improvement. Since its initial launch, it's already gone through a major revision titled A Realm Reborn, but now we're ready for its first expansion, Heavensward. Welcome to Ishgard, frozen battleground between knights and dragons. Since the cliff-hanger ending in patch v2.55, players have been anxiously awaiting to find out what's next for our heroes, but it's important to note that in order to play Heavensward, you'll need to have completed all of the main story quests from A Realm Reborn.
Given that the base game's story is incredibly complex, detailed, and, well, long, it's clear that Square Enix wanted to focus heavily on continuing the fantastic plot points in Heavensward. Unfortunately, many of the cutscenes are still fairly stiff with questionable voice acting, and even with such deep and meaningful characters, watching your Warrior of Light nod every few seconds while the non-playable character performs scripted emotes can get tiring. That said, if you're looking for a massively multiplayer online role-playing game with a great story, you'll be hard pressed to find another as deep and meaningful as this.
Ishgard offers players three new jobs, a new playable race, and expanded skill sets for existing jobs, as well as a whole heap of new dungeons, maps, and enemies. The amount of entertaining content continues to be impressive even after all this time, and Square Enix has done a fantastic job at keeping old content still relevant for new players while keeping the new stuff feeling fresh. It's amazing that even with over 30 dungeons, instances like The Vault still seem new and exciting.
It's much the same for the new jobs. The first of the three new jobs is the Astrologian, a card wielding healing job with a strong support skill set. The Astrologian relies on a deck of cards to dish out healing and deal offensive or defensive buffs. While they suffer from a lack of any reputable damage dealing skills, boosting the party's abilities helps make up for the loss of damage that a comparable scholar or white mage can apply in most instances. In eight player content, the Astrologian can switch between one of two stances to create synergy with a white mage or a scholar. Even though it possesses a bit of a higher learning curve, the Astrologian is a fantastic addition to the healing role with valuable support abilities.
Next we have one of the most anticipated new jobs since the announcement of Heavensward: the Dark Knight. This greatsword-wielding tank offers more involved abilities for a tank class. The Dark Knight will have to balance both HP and MP in order to stay alive while keeping the enemies off the vulnerable healers and damage dealers. By unleashing their inner darkness, these tanks will be able to increase damage mitigation while dealing more punishment at the cost of a continuous MP drain. Other skills like The Living Dead offer survivability by enabling the tank to remain at 1 HP even through most fatal damage, but if the Dark Knight isn't healed for the value of their full HP, they'll die when the buff wears off. Abilities such as this require extreme co-ordination between the healer and tank with massive payoffs when done right.
The last of the three new jobs is the Machinist. By using guns and a turret, the Machinist deals rapid damage while maintaining a high level of mobility. Turrets can even be promoted to support-style machines increasing either MP or TP regeneration for the party, similar to a Bard's song. While the Machinist is one of the more complex damage dealing classes to play, it's also slightly reliant on luck. Even the basic attack combo requires either an ammunition buff with a moderate cooldown or, as mentioned, a bit of luck since each skill only has a 50 per cent chance to trigger the next skill in the combo chain. This generally equates to a class with amazing burst damage, but slightly lacking compared to others when it comes to long, sustained fights.
Don't feel left out if you're in love with any of the already available jobs, though. Expanding the existing level cap to 60 brings new changes and challenges to each and every class in the game. From Carpentry to Black Mage, each class can level up to expand their arsenal with a set of skills. Some of these are as minor as a damage buff to Warriors, while others like the Bard's Wanderer's Minuet, for better or worse, completely change the way that some jobs are played.
While most of these expanded skill sets greatly improve each job's utility or play style, others have sparked much controversy within the Final Fantasy XIV community. A great example being the above mentioned Bard skill. Since the lonely 1.0 days, Bards have always primarily been an instant damage dealing class with high mobility. By adding the Wanderer's Minuet skill, the Bard is forced to stand still and cast some of their primary skills with the benefit of a 30 per cent damage boost. This skill is optional, but in instances with high damage requirements, the damage potential is too low without it. Even though Square Enix already boosted the damage and reduced the cast time of this buff, it's still a drastic change that's led to many playfully dubbing Bards 'Bow Mages'.
With that said, it's been a short time since the release of this fresh content, and players are still trying to get a feel for how the new skills slot into existing playstyles – or don't, in this particular example. It's important, however, to mention Square Enix's proven support for its MMO. In the short time since the Heavensward release, there have already been significant changes to the both the Bard and Machinist's damage output and playstyle – it's even added four new eight-player raids.
When it comes to the raids themselves, Heavensward takes a more accessible approach in terms of difficulty. In previous patch content, the difficulty spike between four and eight-player content was often jarring, and massively frustrating for players who don't have a large group of dedicated friends. Attempting to clear most of the eight man primals or raids via the Duty Finder is almost futile. Luckily, Alexander – the newest raid instance – and dungeons will prove to be far more accessible for most players; with less punishing mechanics and lower co-operation requirements, these raids are entirely doable for the majority of the players who are able to reach level 60.
That's not to say that Square Enix is going easy on players, though. The difficulty of quests has risen dramatically, with new job quests often requiring a bit of problem solving, while wild monsters on the new maps can make even the mightiest of tanks feel the heat. These very important quests become teaching tools so that players can learn the appropriate roles for group content. Meanwhile, the two new primal fights also feature extreme modes for players looking for loot, and they offer similar difficulty to their pre-expansion primal brethren.
Another new addition is the ability to fly on most of the new maps. Being that these areas are enormous, the ability to fly on select mounts will help adventures quickly traverse the beautiful land of Ishgard. Unfortunately, you won't unlock the ability to fly without first interacting with 'Aether Currents', which are scattered around the map. You'll also need to complete a handful of quests.
As hinted, even though these maps are gorgeous and well laid out, the sheer size of each zone can quickly become exhausting on foot. Often times, it may only appear like a short walk to a quest, but because of the mountains and vertical obstacles, players may need to circle around large portions of the whole map just to reach a ledge visible from a few yalms away. It's very clear that these maps were designed to be navigated via flight, but since many players won't unlock the ability to fly until they're nearly done with that zone, it feels like a missed opportunity.
Performance, meanwhile, remains fairly unchanged. While the PC version offers new and improved visual effects with the addition of the DirectX11 client, performance of the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 clients remains unchanged. The PS4 client continues to look and run great, while the last-gen edition still struggles in many aspects.
The beautiful new areas, incredible story, and massive additions to existing content make Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward an amazing package. Despite some minor annoyances, the overall amount of additional, enjoyable content proves to be highly entertaining for those who have exhausted Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn. Whether you're a newbie or a returning adventurer, there's no better time than now to give the brilliant world of Eorzea a shot.
Great review, Nate! I haven't played in months, but now I wanna catch up with all the story quests in A Realm Reborn, and get Heavensward as a reward
@Grockumus Thanks! What is your favorite job? I've converted from a Black Mage to a Machinist
I'll be around in the comments if anyone has additional questions!
Incredible story you say? Euuuurgh I'm really thinking about getting into this but do I want to open the can of worms it'll inevitably end up being? I'm sure the worms'll taste great but still...
@NathanUC If I were to start fresh do I have to get through tons of content from the base game before exploring this expansion or can I get both and just jump in? Or maybe just pick up the base game and see how I get on? Unfortunately I wasted my 14 day trial last year so seeing how I get on is not an option at this point. Also it is a monthly subscription, correct?
@kyleforrester87 Unless you just HAVE to be the new Au Ra race (unlocks when you buy Heavensward), you should just buy the base game for now. By the time you finish A Realm Reborn, Heavensward might be a bit cheaper.
Yes, there is a subscription fee. It's $12.99 for one character per server (Entry) or $14.99 for up to 8 per server (Standard). Since one character can do EVERYTHING without penalty, only the entry sub is really needed.
@NathanUC Great, thanks..and I understand this is somewhat outside of the scope of this review but does it come with the first month free? I'm almost sure I'll take a punt, I've heard nothing but good things. (Especially as it's only £17 on Amazon...)
@kyleforrester87 Yes, the base game comes with a 30 day subscription. The Heavensward expansion does NOT come with a sub though.
@NathanUC Okay. I just put my order in. It's coming tomorrow. If it's rubbish I'm comin' for ya!
@kyleforrester87 Here are my top 3 tips when starting out:
1. Don't skip dialog/cutscenes!! They are important to story and at teaching you the basics. (You can always re-watch them via the Inn if you need to)
2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're new to something, it's better to ask first than go in blind.
3. Do your story quest. This will be a natural progression towards other content like mounts, new zones, etc.
Bonus 4th tip: Take your time. There's no point in rushing this game. In my opinion, early content is just as good as end game content.
@NathanUC Cool thanks! I don't expect to be rushing through it, just gunna have to put some time into it to get the good stuff back out of it.
Does the digital copy of the first game (North American version) from the playstation store still come with the free 30day pass???????????? this answear is the only thing keeping me from buying it. someone let me know.......................................Thanks.
@oats-81 yep! Base game comes with 30 days even if you get it on psn. You won't be able to pay your sub fee on psn after that though.
Enjoyed ff14 mostly...the only thing that stopped me from playing was the ridiculous grind for gear towards the end game content(yes...i know its how things are in mmo, ive played and beta tested waaay too many) and that there isnt much choice in gear early on...you WILL use this sword and armor for a handful of levels and then you WILL use this sword and armor for the next few simply because there is no(or little) choice...
I've been interested in getting a realm reborn and getting into this game, but after reading this I might get the have to get the bundle pack and start adventuring
Seems worth if for $40.
If you're a new comer, Heavensward content will only unlock only after you've completed the story related stuff on ARR.
Missed playing this game - I played it for 8 months when ARR when was first released - had to stop due to poor latency during end-game missions like Primal fights and Raids. Once in a while I still look for FFXIV clips online especially when there's new content.
It was the first true mmo I got on a console, and it was confusing as hell to play, I did manage to figure it out sooner or later, but currently I'm tight financially so I can't do a subscription for the time being.
@NathanUC Hi, Nathan. Just curious but do old players have to use the potion if they want to change to the new Au Ra race?
@WanderingBullet unfortuanly, yes. They did at least put them on sale I think.
@NathanUC Gotcha. Thanks.
@kyleforrester87 Wouldn't mind a bash on this myself, so will look for a deal.
@NathanUC is that £15 a month? That's pretty expensive.
The spike in difficulty for just battling roaming monsters in huge. If you fight more than one at a time without your Chocobo companion then surprisingly you're as good as dead.
Also, the Au Ra race is ugly in my opinion.
@themcnoisy it cost's £8.99 per month for up to 8 character's, great game i've been playing it a while now.
@xMEADx Cool, seems a lot of money though, £30 each game and £9 a month. Will pick up a trial as I like ff a lot.
It does amount to alot when you work out what you would pay over 12 month's but you get alot for your money, since ARR launched on PS there has been loads of content added, new raid's and dungeon's etc etc and all free as you already pay a sub also i'd advise you to stay away from the PS store for Heavensward it was £40 on PSN but I picked it up off Ebay for £20 and once it's installed you won't need the disc again so it's like a digital game anyway. Just edited to mention that there have been 2 new class's added since it launched on PS+ Ninja and Scholar at no extra cost as well.
@xMEADx @themcnoisy I was not sure whether it was worth it but since the base game is only £17 with 30 days free that's like paying £9 for the base game. Then I was wondering if I could be doing with another direct debit on my account and the other half reminded me I'd only need to play it 9 hours a month for it to be £1 per hour which I'm happy to do if it's a good game, and I'll probably play more than 9 hours a month anyway.
Plus I pay a tenner for Spotify and though I wouldn't be without it I'm sure I use it less than I'll play FF14. I'll give it until MGS5 comes out and see how I'm feeling with it
@kyleforrester87 Awsome another edition to the 4 million+ user base around the world
@ApostateMage I completely agree lol. I think it's the scaly tail that ruins it for me.
Thanks, I'll probably be getting this soon then.
Well tempted in getting fibal fantasy XIV now - but only if I clear my backlog first. I don't think I'll make the month charge worth it if I'm going to be working in hospitality lol
If you need information how to level up very fast. In this guide you find information about leveling: https://www.sellersandfriends.com/blog/ffxiv-boosting-services-raising-your-level-with-a-partner
Tap here to load 30 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...